Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Singapore's high imprisonment rate....

One of the comments to my previous posting pointed out Wilkinson shows that Singapore has the highest prison population per capita after USA among developed countries. I did a quick check and statistics show that we have the 2nd highest rate of incarceration in South East Asia - see the last column of the following table which shows prison population per 100,000 (Source: Link).

Our rate of imprisonment is triple that of Malaysia.

There is this poster that the SPF put up around housing estates that says "Low Crime Rate Does not mean no crime".
If our crime rate is low, why are there so many people imprisoned? The USA has a large prison population because the crime rate is high.  Some of you may argue that our police force is very effective compared with the developing countries around us i.e. they are better at solving crimes. However, that does not explain why we have such high rates of imprisonment compared with other developed countries where the police is equally effective.

What is the cause of  such a high rate of imprisonment? I have a few hypothesis. While crimes like robbery or theft may be low giving us a general sense of security i.e. can go out at night without fear of getting robbed, other crimes like loan sharking, smuggling of contraband (which is victimless?) and illegal prostitution occur at a much higher rate....and may have a causal relationship with social inequality   The other plausible explanation is our laws are harsh and puts people behind bars for lesser crimes such as creation of graffiti, setting up a tent withou a license at the beach[Link]. inability to pay parking fines[Link] and jaywaking[Link].


Anonymous said...

Singapore laws are known to be rather slack in some areas.

For example, you could beat up someone in public, and all you will get is just the police taking down your particulars.

The victim is supposed to lodge a magistrate complaint on his own if he wants to file charges.

Till then, the police will not intervene. If they wanted to, they could charge both attacker and victim with 'rioting' or disorderly conduct.

Lye Khuen Way said...

Another possible reason : the data for crime rate that was reported have had same flaws as those relating to drug abuse. No ?

Anonymous said...

If the government can be more open with their data, we would not have to speculate.

Anonymous said...

Like the poor and destitute, prisoners are a minority of the population.

In any society, not just Singapore, there are much more good people than bad people (eg criminals, prisoners)so it's OK even though there is high imprisonment rate.

In fact high imprisonment rate means there is very effective law enforcement and therefore society is very peaceful and safe like Singapore. Otherwise criminals will be roaming the streets freely and many people will be at risk.

Can you honestly say Malaysia (eg JB) is safer than Singapore, even though their imprisonment rate is 3 times lower than us?

Anonymous said...

There are many among the accused who chose to go to jail because they could not afford the legal fees to defend themselves, although they may be innocent.

Cases like women falsely accusing men of molestation for extortion, shop ah bengs planting evidence in customer's bag because the customer pissed them off etc.

Some just want to 'get it done and over with' soon so they can get on with their lives. And the 'fastest route' is to spend a few days or weeks in jail, thanks to the 'generous' scums in the AGC.

Anonymous said...

to anon (1/11/11 07:00):

unfortunately it only happens to ordinary Singapore peasants. For the PAP and their crony elites, the police is extremely swift and proactive! Just ask PAP doggie Cynthia Phua or any PAP doggie who has ever been slighted or even verbally abused by ordinary peasants.

Anonymous said...

i am not complaining about this. unless you are suggesting that some of these folks are innocent...or you prefer them to be wandering around despite committing crimes. Who do you think get imprisoned?

Recruit Ong said...

i have pointed out long ago that the system here is designed to punish the weak and mollycoddle the elites.


Anonymous said...

Those were interesting statistics you have.

Wouldn't it be even more enlightening if you can show a breakdown based on crime/offences committed and the sentences they attract across all the countries.

I say this because I have a sense that the same or comparable offence attracts different punishments in different countries. For example, I have the feeling that the Singapore govt tend to impose jail terms and heavier sentences for a far greater variety of offenses than many other countires. So you not only go to jail for more types of offences, you also stay in for longer periods. End result, more people are jailed and remained in jail longer, with the cumulative effect of there being a higher prison population at any one time.

Oh yes, while you are at it, can you also throw light on the size of foreigners who are prison imates? I am not surprise if they are a significant proportion, esp those from third world countries. We also jail FW for illegally entering the country. So all these factors would definitely engorge our prisoner population. Also why not do a comparison between the years BEFORE the immigration floodgates were opened and now? That should be most enlightening too.

Anonymous said...

"Singapore's high imprisonment rate...."

Luckily there is enough prison space to house them.

Anonymous said...

The law is full of loopholes.

If you threaten to beat someone up, the police could easily arrest you for intimidation.

But if you actually go beat someone up (without the threatening part), you would get away with it rather easily. Just take care not to use a weapon or kill or maim the poor fella.

Police won't intervene beyond taking down your particulars. The onus is upon the victim to go to the court and lodge a complaint about you, where you would probably get fined.

Did you read about the case in the New Paper? Where the taxi driver got his hand fractured in a dispute?

Or about the case where 3 drunk foreigners beat up a Singaporean at the Bedok jetty?

Anonymous said...

"Luckily there is enough prison space to house them". Unquote.

If there are ten thousand(10,000) Singaporeans occupying the Istana, it will have to be converted into an instant prison. And even then, they will have to engage foreigners to guard guard the Singaporeans.

Remember, they have to resort to electronic tagging and mind You, most of the prison warders are foreigners now.


Anonymous said...

so long as those who are put behind bars are not singaporeans, it does not matter much. btw, singapore is made up of almost 50% foreigners and many overstayed cos it is such a nice place.

ajohor said...


Unlike most countries, Singapore does enforce them, so why the surprise. In addition, the low crime rate is a good testimony of the effect of the deterrence.

Anonymous said...

"Our rate of imprisonment is triple that of Malaysia."

Oh, come on.... This is a pretty lame example.

I am afraid to go to Johore and KL because of the reported crimes committed there. I think they need to improve on their arrest and crime solving rates to get to our level of public safety!

If you wanna compare, at least compare against a country with equal public safety record as Singapore...

Anonymous said...

Have you seen many of these ex-prisoners on the streets with a small placard stating he or she has recently been out of prison and needs your support to purchase some of his tokens/items from the Prisons Department as part of the Yellow Ribbon project?

I don't feel very Singaporean these days. We have such an unforgiving and cold society and the leaders are to be blame for shaping such an ugly climate today in Singapore. Do you know how difficult it is for an ex-prisoner to find work in Singapore? His passport is incarcerated. They have to go to Cantonment Complex Police Headquarters to get approval to leave the country. The government makes it difficult for these folks to leave the country to find a living given this status conscious complex we have build among Singaporeans.

I'm no longer proud to be here. I want to migrate and i don't give a hoot what the fear of migration is all about. It's better to try than not to try at all and change the shit here.

Anonymous said...

Remember that criminals in prisons are not counted as unemployed persons.
While criminals are not working, they are not unemployed and they are not employed.
This is another way where unemployment rate is manipulated and distorted.

runroad said...

Yah lah, prisoner stats might look bad but PAP still can win 93% seats in elections what? And if PAP can achieve it this time even when things are as bad as Lucky says, why not in 2016 too and far into the next millenium? So what's the problem (for PAP)??

You people ah, always looking on the dark side of the mooncake and missing the egg inside. I tell you, with 60% of the vote in these difficult times it proves that Singaporeans prefer a peaceful, safe police state to a chaotic free one like HK, Japan, S. Korea and other mediocre nations.

High prisoner population does not mean Draconian punishments that do not fit the crime, it means low numbers of potential bad hats wandering around raping our women, ravaging our Reserves and holding meaningless, non-profitable peaceful protests.

In short, it ain't broke. So don't try and fix it.

- Mr 60/93.

que said...

"Unlike most countries, Singapore does enforce them, so why the surprise. In addition, the low crime rate is a good testimony of the effect of the deterrence.”

The problem with this sort of assertion is that
many countries enforce their laws too, but hardly any have as high a percentage of population in prison. Prison is not, and will never be the only solution to crime. Likewise, there are many reasons people turn (or not turn to crime), and it would be simplistic to assume otherwise.

Well the question is – how much are the prisons for deterrence, and how much are they for rehabilitation? Part of the reason the US has the highest ratio of incarceration in the world is a high rate of recidivism – pointing to a failure to successfully rehabilitate ex-convicts.

And so over here <a href="http://www.spring.gov.sg/NewsEvents/ITN/Pages/Parliament-Shorts-2-March-2011.aspx”>27.3% of those released in 2008</a> went on to commit another offence again. If prison were such an effective deterrent – why aren’t these people, who have experienced it first hand – return to it?

Anonymous said...

I wonder why Lucky feels our police laws on imprisonment are draconian or harsh.

I, in fact, find Singapore's law surprising lax. They are only harsh when dealing with political dissidents.

Look at today's news. Due to a workplace quarrel, one man threw thinner and set his colleague on fire. The colleague is now permanently disfigured, maimed and has chalked up over $100,000 in bills and much more in lost future income.

The penalty for such a horrible crime? Only a mere 4 years in jail. The attacker is not even liable to the victim in any way. There is no talk about making the attacker pay any damages or to foot the hospital bill.

However, try "defaming" our political leaders, and you could end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

I think it is very obvious from these cases whether our laws are too lenient or too draconian.

7-8 said...

Anonymous at 1/11/11 20:22 :

You can see that the incarceration rate of Singapore is around 400 for every 100k people. Do the maths yourself and see what kind of impact that would have on unemployment. (the answer is almost zero).

Lucky Tan:

In general, the relationship between the number of people in prison and the crime rate is not necessarily a positive one. In the US, crime rate went down a lot in the 20 years, at around the same time that they were putting a lot of people in jail. If all the criminals are in jail, doesn't it make sense that the crime rate would fall?

I'm not saying that having a large number of people in jail is a good thing btw.

raymond chiam said...

instead of thinking that "Singapore prisoner ratio is high DESPITE low crime rate" why not think of it as "Singapore prisoner ratio HELPS maintain low crime rate"?

Having strict laws deter criminals. Also locking criminals away instead of being lenient help to prevent them from repeating crimes.

addgency said...

Israel which SG often uses as benchmark is lower, thus i agree with you Sg may need to see how to lower its prison rate. However Singapore is a city state, rightful SE Asia comparison would be with Selangor, Penang, Manila metro area.

Anonymous said...

"However Singapore is a city state,..."
addgency said...2/11/11 10:52

That's why PAP can win 60% mandate and 93% seats in elections.

Because if can win 1 or 2 GRCs, can win almost all.

So how can compare with other countries? Just one of their cities is bigger than Singapore already.

TokyoSingaporean said...

"You people ah, always looking on the dark side of the mooncake and missing the egg inside. I tell you, with 60% of the vote in these difficult times it proves that Singaporeans prefer a peaceful, safe police state to a chaotic free one like HK, Japan, S. Korea and other mediocre nations."

Japan is not a police state; much less chaotic or for that matter, mediocre.

Given that Japan makes its own living through innovation and excellence in manufacturing, it is anything but mediocre. Singapore, on the other hand, needs to catch up on innovation as it is 50 years behind most developed nations. 2 casinos is not a sign of ingenuity but a sign of desperate measures.

There is a need to remove groupthink that is affecting the direction that Singapore is moving towards.

^_^LuNaR_AnGeL^_^ said...

corruption could skew the figures in the survey. I would think that a country that has a less than clean system would have less arrest and prosecution.

cheap ink for printers said...

its gives the main results , the imprisonment rate is good for country structure,keep it going on